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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  October 31, 2017 6:30am-7:01am PDT

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. good evening, i am tavis smiley, first, with sash sasha polakow suransky, then, street artist shepard fairey is joining us looking at street arts and activisms as it relates to its most iconic work his work and depicting from barack obama. we are glad you are joining us, all of that is coming up in just a moment.
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♪ and buy contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. please welcome sash sasha polakow-suransky, he's the author of the book "go back to
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where you came from, "white n s nationalism." i read that. what kind of backlash did you get from that? >> i got some creepy message, something that i don't want to see on facebook and twitter. it got under a lot of people skin. >> give me some sense of what you heard? >> there were a lot of backlash of white nationalist groups. i got a lot of comments looking into my own background and insinuating things of jewish people. it was uncomfortable but i was not entirely surprise. i think there were people out there who were offended by it because i was calling them out. >> is immigration like, i am going to say the new third rail, although there is nothing new about the debate. is it a new third rail in
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politics? >> it is a central issue in this century and all throughout europe. most o f the reporting that i did was in places like france and jeremy and holland and denmark and the book started as a project about european countries and i was following around like peopmarine le pen. i did not see trump coming. i was living in the uk as the brexit vote and i was hanging out with national french supporters and leaders and france. and, so i ended up writing a little bit about my own country and given what's happened here. i do think in all of these places, it has become the central issue and europe is apart of that because so many refugees came in and a lot of people were understandably shaken and upset. that's a lot of people for any country to absorb in one year so
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i understand the grievances. >> have you figured out yet why break s brexit won in the uk and trump won in the u.s. and marine le pen lost in france and she's the one that you thought was going to win. what happened? >> that's a good question, i been thinking about that a lot myself. i think what happened in france, there was a very inspiring outsider candidate. emanuel macron was a lot like obama was in 2008, in the sense that he came from outside the political establishment. he presented this sort of exciting, young, confident persona that really latched on with a lot of people in france
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and there is a reacsidual fear. le pen, as much as she tries to change it on the surface, a lot of that was going on underneath, when she went up against a candidate who was poll liished young and presented a new vision of i am not apart of the old center right establishment, i am something else. he was able to defeat her but it does not mean that her appeal had gone away. o if tlhere is a terrorist attack in france of the scale of what happened in paris, the nice attack and the charlottesvil-- night before the election, i think it would be a different ball game.
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this is still there beneath the surface in france. it is not going away. people should not be celebrating the fact that she lost of 34% of the vote. that will means one of three french voters supported her for everything that she stood for. just in the last week we see in austria, politicians win the election but it is probably governing of the far right party that increased its shares dramatically. this is happening in europe and it is not going away and it is happening in other countries as well including our own. >> you draw a bold line and make a brass argument for this link of the backlash against immigration and the faith of western democracy. i am going to ask you to answer this question when you spent a whole book addressing it. >> sure. >> that's a strong link to draw. the future of western democracy is linked to his backlash
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against immigration. give me your short thesis. >> what i am arguing is that the people who are leading the backlash against immigration right now, if they become increasingly popular and if that becomes the central issue in election campaigns and all these countries in the years going forward. they have the ability to draw large majorities in to their orbit and win elections and so part of that argument is, you know, everyone is afraid of terrorist attacks and immigrants and a lot of the right political program has been playing on those fears. what i am saying is terrorist attack is terrible and they are a real risk and we as a democracy need to deal with that and stop it. it is manageable. we survived ner9/11 and the bri survived the terror attack and the french persevere. if the britt brings enough people with them, that becomes a
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central theme from the campaign, they can start to challenge independence of the courts and take away birthright citizenships which has been a big issue and a lot of these countries. what i am saying is this is not necessarily going to happen tomorrow. this is a trend that we see because people are voting for these transports of politicians and they are able to appeal, as i said in the new york times, they are able to appeal to vo r voters in a way that islamists could not. someone could come up and say we are the natives and this is our country and we don't want anybody else in it. people are going vote. i feel that these people are able to get enough popularity to the point that they canda can dismantle what makes our
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society democratic. >> you are doing is giving a lot of credence to the amount of fear. fear is very powerful. >> it is. i hate to say it but if you look at what has driven these elections and all of these places, it has been politicians who play upon that fear. i have to give them credit, too. they know what they are doing. they are tapping into people's resentments and fears and they are getting votes. i think that what people miss sometimes. see, it is fine for people to have reservations about immigrations. i understand why people see their whole neighborhoods changed in a matter of a whole year, they maybe upset and resenting their poll serious conditions -- politicians. some of these politicians don't have androgen agenda.
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they want it to be a state for the native. it is a native agenda and that's what scares me. >> i take that and i want to push back one thing. >> sure >> when you say that you understand, you know, communities changed and people have certain responses to that and your phrase was, that's a debate we ought to be having. i am not sure i agree with you. if you live in neighborhood and people of color moves in and everybody looks like you -- why do we have to have the debate? >> what i am saying is that a lot of politicians in -- >> somebody black moving next door, we'll have a debate about it? >> what i am saying is that a lot of politicians have not been able to recognize those
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grievances. people need to adjustment a lot of politician force so long in these countries, people in the neighborhoods were saying hey, we want to talk about this and there are some issues here. people are not integrating and changing. these are issues that neeshould talked abilitout. >> they seeded that far ground. >> i hear your argument. why are we labeling it to a grievance. if people are living in the country legally, i don't know why people looking just like you, why are we having a debate about it? >> that's not legitimate, i agree with you there. especially in these european countries that's different in the u.s. in the sense that they have comprehensive welfare states, places like denmark, it
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is a cradle to grave welfare state. people are paying taxes for people who have come in as refugees. i think these countries should be accepting people as refugees. my own grandparents were refugees who left berlin in the mid 1930s and went to south africa. it was a country that was not welcoming to jewish people at that time. these refugees should be come in there, these populations are reacting. hey, we want to talk about it and we want to say maybe it is not everyone coming in or not a million people in one year. if politicians don't sit down and have the debate. that's what i am talking about. they left the sort of open ground for these far right parties to come in. a lot of voters w when i was talking when i reported for france, some of these are people voted for communist parties in france 20 years ago. holland for the labor party.
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these are the working class left wing voters who finds an appeal. i think politicians have played ip into it and they intelligently lashed onto that because they feel they can say i speak for you. >> i think you would appreciate my point, it sounds eerily familiar to what we have now. >> they want to blame the other for other reasons. i don't see that -- are there issues that needs to be addressed? yes, there are issues to be addressed not because someone took your job or someone else denies you the opportunity. that's the part that i adodon't like. i don't consider those legitimate grievances that needs to be debated. >> i am with you there, when a political program leaves behind
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the economic agenda of all colors and ethnicity and all classes. i think if there was a broader debate, people say you know it is not the immigrants talking your job that's a problem, it is not the black folks moving in is a problem, that's an escape. the politicians are leading that chart. they are creating these scapegoats. people are latching onto that agenda. and it is not a viable message but it will get you some votes. that's what we found in all of these places. >> the book is called "go back to where you came from." the backlash against immigration. sasha, it is good to have you in our program. thanks for the text, my friend. >> up next, shepard fairey, stay with us. ♪
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>> please welcome to shepard fairey to this program. best known for his work. next month, he's the subject of a new documentary on hulu called "obey giant" and he will open his show here in los angeles, it is called "damaged." >> good to be here. >> we talked about you and your cover art and all that and those guys love you. >> i think we are on the same page of a lot of stuff, they are heroes of mine because they use their art forms to say something. i think we are all pushing in the same direction. >> everybody has seen your work and knows the obama poster. tell me about shepard far irey,
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give me the condensed version of who you are really? >> i grew up in south carolina, i was a frustrated kid until i discovered skateboarding and punk rock. i like to draw when i was young. seeing how art can apply to something creative and rebellio rebellious. i move to the new punk rock which is hip-hop. i like the idea of using art to reach a lot of people not in a populous way. if you are taking the time to communicate visually, why not have it being meaningful. >> back to the story of your life, your biggest work -- the most rex neuroscienceabcognizab.
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>> that's global instantly. >> obama's popularity is what propelled that. i was lucky to create something that i think people thought it was compelling enough to become the symbol. >> yes. you bet obama? >> yes, i have. >> what did he say to you about the poster? >> well, he said that he was really grateful for it and that he thinks artists are an important thing and he learned enough about my background. he had several people that worked with him that knew my history and things i have done against the iraq war and the patriot act. i think that he was flattered that ill potentially sacrifice my street credit to do something for him. it was really cool that he got that deep on it and you know i think obama is a really extraordinary human being. i think that he had some
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successes and many failures. i would like to see things pushed in a much progressive direction. we are all to blame collectively of where we are now with trump and why obama was not able to do more. so, you know, i don't like to play the blame game of specific people. i look at our culture and i try to plug my art into where i think it needs to be plugged. >> i think i hear you say very smoothly -- that he was not as progressive that you want him to be. >> am i correct about that? >> yes, correct. >> you don't regret of the poster though. >> no, i don't. everyone makes decisions based on what everything you know of that point. what i knew of that point of where obama stands on reducing the influence of lobbyists and pushing for green energy and
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green technology and closing guantánamo and as a campaigner and someone and one of the few who did not support the iraq war. i felt it was potential lyanly amazing opportunity for him to become president. that's all you can ever do. sth >> sure. i continue to push on the issue that i cared about and critique him, you know, i was not a cheer leader who know drank the kool-aid and supported him uncal a uncal -- unconditionally. >> how did you use your street art during his eight years of presidency to speak? what were some of the images that you put out. >> in i supported the occupied movement. i have done some images of
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campaign finance reform and you know corporate influences and politics and just, you know, as a corrupting force of democracy, so i made a lot of images that were free down load supporting occupied that were use widely through that. i did a portrait of hootty -- we are the hope of 99%. i subverted my own image. i have done a lot of imagery of a lot of different issues, environmental destructions and climate change is one of the biggest threat that we are facing and not being taken seriously enough. there is too many to just go through the list. >> yes, i am just curious of not seeing the rest of your stuff. what did that poster of obama and others sent say to you about the power of street art?
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>> well, it says that people respond to imagery that may be, hits them in the gut and hopefully, they respond intellectually, we are innawith much noise all time and we are not predisposed of accepting something and it needs to impact us emotionally. every image i make, i am trying to achieve that and some succeed and some don't. you know people do speak the language of images. look at the way that instagram works and social media. what i am trying to do is harenest what's good about that and stay away from the way in which it can really, you know, create a quality of kmo communication. have you seen the result of your work and work of others, do you
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see street art dprgrowing as a of protests. >> i do. it is grown through the 2000s. and some of that will is based on sort of the excitement around the rebel cache and there is a lot of activist movement that incorpora incorporated and something that demonstrates of whatever it costs or i want to put art of a public space and i don't think i should see people going through a gallery or museum or i want to say something specific of this issue. when you encounter street art of the idea that who ever placed it there was a risk taker and somebody committed to what they are putting out there. it is powerful and people have come to understand that. it also transmits through social media really well because people say oh yeah, i can send you a flat jpeg but this thing in a situation and real world, wow, that's way more exciting.
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i believe that every thing that demonstrates willingness to act has a power to encourage other people to act. >> yeah, i concur. >> two things i want to cover before we get out of here. one, tell me about the documentary. >> so this made in conjunction of the artist and james franco's production company with hulu of the story of my art and life when i was a kid growing up south carolina to the women's marches more or less ends there, created the way of the people series of the women's marches and they went viral almost as wide as the obama poster did. what i am proud of is that it shows consistency and evolution in my work and some triumphs and failures but i think i amroud of my tenacity.
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>> you should be. >> this exhibit is about to be your artist, tell me about the show. >> it is called "damaged," it is my diagnoses of a lot of issues and accepting and confronting diagnosing is the first step of solving problems. i am saying our racism and sexism and scapegoats and approaching the environmen environment -- the lessons of media and with the exception of your show, of course. >> thank you. >> these are things that we need to honestly praise and say which way do we want to go? do we twoont rawant to race to m with the darker side of human impulses or rise above? i am struggling to push the idea forward that we are better than
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that. >> it is a beautiful struggle and we are glad to have a chance to watch it. >> damage is the exhibit. shepard is a busy guy these days. congratulations on the exhibit. >> my pleasure. >> that's our show tonight, thanks for watching and as always, keep the faith. ♪ for more information on today's show, visit www.tavissmiley@pbs.org, hi, i am tavis smiley, join me next time as we deep dive into what's happening around our country, that's next time. we'll see you then. ♪
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>> and by contributions to your pbs stations from viewers like you. thank you. ♪
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